« PreviousContinue »
work for which God ordained them, and they are placed there for our sakes, and speak God's language in our accent; and they appear in the outside: we receive the benefit of their ministry, and God receives the glory.
The Blessings and Graces of the Holy Sacrament enumerated and proved particularly.
IN the reception of the blessed sacrament, there are many blessings, which proceed from our own actions, the conju gations of moral duties, the offices of preparation and reception, the reverence and the devotion; of which I shall give an account in the following chapters: here I am to enumerate those graces, which are intended to descend upon us from the Spirit of God in the use of the sacrament itself precisely.
But, first; I consider, that it must be infinitely certain, that great spiritual blessings are consequent to the worthy receiving of this divine sacrament: because it is not at all received but by a spiritual hand: for it is either to be understood in a carnal sense that Christ's body is there eaten, or in a spiritual sense: if in a carnal, it profits nothing; if in a spiritual, he be eaten, let the meaning of that be considered, and it will convince us that innumerable blessings are in the very reception and communion. Now what the meaning of this spiritual eating is, I have already declared in this chapter; and shall yet more fully explicate in the sequel. In the sacrament we do not receive Christ carnally; but we receive him spiritually: and that of itself is a conjugation of blessings and spiritual graces. The very understanding what we do, tells us also what we receive. But I descend to particulars.
1. And, first; I reckon that the sacrament is intended to: increase our faith: for although it is with us in the holy sacrament, as it was with Abraham in the sacrament of circumcision:- he had the grace of faith before he was circumcised; and received the sacrament after he had the
purpose and the grace; and we are to believe, before we receive these symbols of Christ's death;-yet as by loving we love more, and by the acts of patience we increase in the spirit of mortification,-so by believing we believe more: and by publication of our confession we are made confident, and, by seeing the signs of what we believe, our very senses are incorporated into the article: and he that hath, shall have more.' And when we concorporate the sign with the signification, we conjoin the word and the spirit; and faith passes on from believing to an imaginary seeing, and from thence to a greater earnestness of believing, and we shall believe more abundantly: this increase of faith not being only a natural and proper production of the exercise of its own acts, but a blessing and an effect of the grace of God in that sacrament: it being certain, that the sacrament, being of divine institution, could not be to no purpose [for" in spiritualibus sacramentis ubi præcepit virtus, servit effectus." "where the commandment comes from him that hath all power, the action cannot be destitute of an excellent event"]: and, therefore, that the representing of the death of Christ, being an act of faith, and commanded by God, must needs, in the hands of God, be more effectual than it is in its own nature: that faith shall then increase not only by the way of nature, but by God blessing his own instruments, can never be denied but by them, that neither have faith nor experience. For this is the proper sense and the very exaltation of faith the Latin church, for a long time, into the very words of consecration of the chalice, hath put words relating to this purpose: "For this is the cup of my blood of the New and Eternal Testament, the mystery of faith, which for you, and for many, shall be shed for the remission of sins." And if by faith we eat the flesh of Christ, as it is confessed by all the schools of Christians,-then it is certain, that when so manifestly and solemnly, according to the divine appointment, we publish this great confession of the death
b Ante communicationem corporis Christi et sanguinis, juxta orientalium partium morem, unanimiter clara voce sacratissimum fidei recenseant symbolum, ut primum populi quam credulitatem teneant, fateantur. — Concil, Tolet. ii. c. 2.-Et St. Ambros. Quibus (symbolis) vescentes, confessiouem fidei suæ addebant: respondebant Amen. -Idem etiam sancitum in Concil. Agath.
e Euseb. Emis, habetur de consecrat. dist. 2.
of Christ, we do, in all senses of spiritual blessing, eat the flesh, and drink the blood of Christ. And let that be expounded how we list, we are not in this world capable of, and we do not need, a greater blessing; and God may say in the words of Isaac to his son Esau, "with corn and wine' have I sustained thee; and what is there left, that I can do unto thee, my son ?" To eat the flesh, and to drink the blood of Christ sacramentally, is an act of faith; and every act of faith, joined with the sacrament, does grow by the nature of grace, and the measures of a blessing; and, therefore, is eating of Christ spiritually; and this reflection of acts, like circles of a glorious and eternal fire, passes on in the univocal production of its own parts, till it pass from grace to glory.
2. Of the some consideration it is, that all the graces, which we do exercise by the nature of the sacrament requiring them, or by the necessity of the commandment of preparation, do here receive increase upon the account of the same reason; but I instance only in that of charity, of which this is, signally and by an especial remark, the sacrament; and, therefore, these holy conventions are called by St. Jude", "feasts of charity," which were Christian festivals, in which also they had the sacrament adjoined. But whether that doth effect this persuasion or no, yet the thing itself is dogmatically affirmed in St. Paul's explication of that mystery," we are one body, because we partake of one bread;" that is, plainly, Christ is our head, and we the members of his body, and are united in this mystical union by the holy sacrament; not only because it symbolically does teach our duty, and promotes the grace of charity by a real signature, and a sensible sermon; nor yet only because it calls upon Christians by the public sermons of the Gospel, and the duties of preparation, and the usual expectations of conscience and religion; but even by the blessing of God, and the operation of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament, which
a Jud. 12.
• Εκ δὲ μιᾶς ρίζης ἄρτου κόρος ἔσσεται ἀνδρῶν.
Corpus sumus de conscientiâ religionis, et disciplinæ unitate, et spei fodere. Coimus ad Deum, et quasi manu facta, precationibus ambimus. Hæc vis Deo grata est. Tertul. apol. cap. 39. Idem (advers. hæret., cap. 20) ait sacramentum esse contesserationem mutuæ dilectionis in membris ecclesiæ inter se.
(as appears plainly by the words of the apostle) is designed to this very end, to be a reconciler and an atonement in the hand of God; a band of charity, and the instrument of Christian communion; that we may be one body, because we partake of one bread; that is, we may be mystically united by the sacramental participation; and, therefore, it was not without mystery, that the congregation of all Christ's servants, his church, and this sacramental bread, are both, in Scripture, called by the same name. This bread is the body of Christ, and the church is Christ's body too; for, by the communion of this bread, all faithful people are confederated into one body, the body of our Lord. Now it is to be observed, that, although the expression is tropical and figurative, that we are made one body,' because it is meant in a spiritual sense,-yet, that spiritual sense means the most real event in the world: we are really joined to one common divine principle, Jesus Christ our Lord; and from him we do communicate in all the blessings of his grace, and the fruits of his passion; and we shall, if we abide in this union, be all one body of a spiritual church in heaven, there to reign with Christ for ever. Now, unless we think nothing good but what goes in at our eyes or mouth; if we think there is any thing good beyond what our senses perceive, we must conceive this to be a real and eminent benefit; and yet whatever it be, it is therefore effected upon us by this sacrament, because we eat of one bread. The very repeating the words of St. Paul is a satisfaction in this inquiry; they are plain and easy; and whatever interpretation can be put upon them, it can only vary the manner of effecting the blessing, and the way of the sacramental efficacy; but it cannot evacuate the blessing, or confute the thing. Only it is to be observed in this, as in all other instances of the like nature, that the grace of God in the sacrament usually is a blessing upon our endeavours; for spiritual graces, and the blessings of sanctification, do not grow like grass, but like corn; not whether we do any husbandry or no, but if we cultivate the ground, then, by God's blessing, the fruits will spring and make the farmer rich; if we be disposed to receive the sacrament worthily, we shall receive this fruit
· Διὰ τὴν σύγκρασιν καὶ ἀναστοιχείωσιν.—Isid. Pelusiot.
also. Which fruit is thus expressed, saying, "This sacrament is therefore given unto us, that the body of the church of Christ in the earth may be joined, or united with our head which is in the heavens."
3. The blessed sacrament is of great efficacy for the remission of sins; not that it hath any formal efficacy, or any inherent virtue to procure pardon, but that it is the ministry of the death of Christ, and the application of his blood, which blood was shed for the remission of sins, and is the great means of impetration, and, as the schools use to speak, is the meritorious cause of it. For there are but two ways of applying the death of Christ, an internal grace, and an external ministry. Faith is the inward applicatory; and if there be any outward at all, it must be the sacraments; and both of them are of remarkable virtue in this particular; for by baptism we are baptized into the death of Christ, and the Lord's Supper is an appointed enunciation and declaration of Christ's death, and it is a sacramental participation of it. Now to partake of it sacramentally, is by a sacrament to receive it; that is, so to apply it to us, as that can be applied; it brings it to our spirit; it propounds it to our faith; it represents it as the matter of eucharist; it gives it as meat and drink to our souls; and rejoices in it, in that very formality in which it does receive it, viz. as broken for, as shed for, the remission of our sins. Now, then, what can any man suppose a sacrament to be, and what can be meant by sacramental participation? for unless the sacraments do communicate what they relate to, they are no communion or communication at all. For it is true, that our mouth eats the material signs; but, at the same time, faith eats too, and therefore must eat; that is, must partake of the thing signified; faith is not maintained by ceremonies: the body receives the body of the mystery; we eat and drink the symbols with our mouths, but faith is not corporeal, but feeds upon the mystery itself; it entertains the grace, and
Serm. 8. ad fratres in erem.-Hoc sacramentum idéo nobis datum est, ut corpus ecclesiæ Christi in terris cum capite, quod est in cœlis, coadunetur. Itaque, petendo panem nostrum quotidianum, perpetuitatem postulamus in Christo, et individuitatem à corpore ejus.—Tertul. de Orat. Et ideo panen nostrum, i, e. Christum, dari nobis quotidie petimus; et, qui in Christo manemus, à sanctificatione ejus et corpore non recedamus.— St. Cyprian. de Orat. Domin.